Author: Sarah Perez

Social music app Playlist lets you listen to music with others in real time

A new app called Playlist aims to make music a more social experience than what’s offered today by the major music platforms like Apple Music, Pandora or Spotify, for example. In Playlist, you can find others who share your musical tastes and join group chats where you listen to playlists together in real time. You can collaborate on playlists, too.

The app, backed by investment from Stanford’s StartX fund, was founded by Karen Katz and Steve Petersen, both Stanford engineers and serial entrepreneurs. Katz previously co-founded AdSpace Networks and another social music platform, Jam Music. She also was a founding executive team member at Photobucket, and founded a company called Project Playlist, which was like a Google search for music back in the Myspace era.

Peterson, meanwhile, has 35 patents and more than a decade of experience in digital music. In the early 2000s he created the software architecture and ran the team at PortalPlayer Inc., which powered the iPod’s music player and was later sold to Nvidia for $357 million. Afterwards, he was CTO at Concert Technology, a technology incubator and intellectual property company with a focus on mobile, social and digital music services.

“The world has gone social, but music has been largely left behind. That’s a real gap,” explains Katz, as to why the founders wanted to build Playlist in the first place.

“Ever since we started listening to music from our mobile phones, it’s become an isolated experience. And music is the number one thing we do on our phones,” she says.

The idea they came up with was to unite music and messaging by synchronizing streams, so people could listen to songs together at the same time and chat while they do so.

During last year’s beta testing period, Playlist (which was listed under a different name on the App Store), saw a huge number of engagements as a result of its real-time nature.

“Out of the gate, we saw 10 times the engagement of Pandora. People have, on average, 60 interactions per hour — like chats, likes, follows, joins, adds and creates,” Katz says. 

Under the hood, the app uses a lot of technology beyond just its synchronized streaming. It also leverages machine learning for its social recommendations, as well as collaborative playlists, large-scale group chat, and behavior-based music programming, and has “Music Match” algorithms to help you find people who listen to the same sort of things you do.

The social aspects of the app involves a following/follower model, and presents playlists from the people you follow in your home feed, much like a music-focused version of Instagram. A separate Discover section lets you find more people to follow or join in other popular listening and chat sessions.

At launch, the app has a catalog of more than 45 million songs and has a music license for the U.S. It plans to monetize through advertising.

The core idea here — real-time music listening and chat — is interesting. It’s like a Turntable.fm for the Instagram age. But the app sometimes overcomplicates things, it seems. For example, importing a playlist from another music app involves switching over to that app, finding the playlist and copying its sharing URL, then switching back to Playlist to paste it in a pop-up box. It then offers a way for you to add your own custom photo to the playlist, which feels a little unnecessary as the default is album art.

Another odd choice is that it’s difficult to figure out how to leave a group chat once you’ve joined. You can mute the playlist that’s streaming or you can minimize the player, but the option to “leave” is tucked away under another menu, making it harder to find.

The player interface also offers a heart, a plus (+), a share button, a mute button and a skip button all on the bottom row. It’s… well… it’s a lot.

But Katz says that the design choices they’ve made here are based on extensive user testing and feedback. Plus, the app’s younger users — often high schoolers, and not much older than 21 — are the ones demanding all the buttons and options.

It’s hard to argue with the results. The beta app acquired more than 500,000 users during last year’s test period, and those users are being switched over to the now publicly available Playlist app, which has some 80K installs as of last week, according to Sensor Tower data.

The company also plans to leverage the assets it acquired from the old Project Playlist, which includes some 30 million emails, 21 million Facebook IDs and 14 million Twitter IDs. A “Throwback Thursday” marketing campaign will reach out to those users to offer them a way to listen to their old playlists.

The startup has raised $5 million in funding (convertible notes) from Stanford StartX Fund, Garage Technology Ventures, Miramar Ventures, IT-Farm, Dixon Doll (DCM founder), Stanford Farmers & Angels, Zapis Capital and Amino Capital.

The Palo Alto-based company is a team of six full-time.

Playlist is a free download for iOS. An Android version is in the works.

Tinder tests ‘Swipe Surge’ in US to connect users during peak times

Tinder today announced the test of a new in-app experience it’s calling “Swipe Surge,” that will send notifications to users when there’s a spike in Tinder usage in their area. The feature is designed to allow Tinder to better capitalize on real-world events that drive increased usage – like music festivals, parties, or spring break holidays, for example.

The company says that it tested out sending push notifications to alert users about surge periods in its app back in 2016, and found that it resulted in users forming 2.5x more matches during a swipe surge.

Users also received nearly 20 percent more right swipes during these events, and they were 2.6x more likely to receive a message, Tinder noted.

Now it’s turning these push notifications into a real product with Swipe Surge.

In addition to the alerts designed to draw Tinder users into the app at the same time, the app will include “Swipe Surge” branding during the event. People who already joined the surge by responding to the push notification will then move to the front of the match queue, and Tinder will show you who’s currently active in the app.

Tinder says that activity during a surge is 15x higher overall, and increases matchmaking potential by 250%.

The company has been working to promote Tinder as a dating app for the younger demographic in recent months, with its marketing campaign focused on the “single lifestyle,” media publication “Swipe Life,” and a test expansion of Tinder U, its college student product.

The Swipe Surge test is underway now in major U.S. markets, says Tinder.

 

With ‘Rivals Week,’ Tinder tests an expansion of its well-performing Tinder U

Starting this weekend, Tinder will allow college students on its Tinder U service to match with others outside their own university for the first time. The dating app is positioning this market test of a potential Tinder U expansion as the  “Rivals Week” — a way to match users with those who attend a rival university (for a limited period of time).

Tinder U’s Rivalry Week starts November 17 in the U.S. for students attending four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities. It ends November 24, Tinder says.

Tinder U itself is still a relatively new feature, having only launched a few months ago as a way to attract more younger users to its service and re-engaged lapsed users.

College students can choose to opt into Tinder U by signing up with their “.edu” email address. Once enrolled, the users can switch over to Tinder U using a toggle switch at the top of the app.

Until now, however, Tinder U limited users to matching only with those who attend their same school.

That changes with “Rivals Week,” as Tinder will now let students match with others at nearby schools — or even cross-country — just so long as those schools are considered a “rival.”

Tinder is not, of course, calling out the move as anything more than just a bit of fun. But the week-long event could return valuable data to the dating app maker, in terms of consumer demand for a Tinder U product that was less restrictive in terms of its catalog of potential matches.

The launch also notably fits in with Tinder’s new strategy to position itself as a dating app for younger users who are less interested in settling down into long-term relationships. The company is investing in a marketing campaign across the U.S. where it promotes the “single lifestyle” Tinder offers.

Essentially, the company is embracing Tinder’s reputation as the “hook-up app,” but in a way that brands short-term dating — if you can call it that — as a more positive thing.

Tinder is able to do this because its parent company, Match Group, now owns a majority stake in Hinge. It says it simultaneously plans to invest in growing that app’s user base along with its reputation for serious relationships.

Meanwhile, Tinder sees Tinder U as a possible growth engine for the young adult-oriented service.

“We created Tinder U to both attract new college students to the Tinder experience and re-engage students who have been part of the Tinder community in the past. Ultimately, we see it as a way to deliver more value to the college user by providing more relevant recommendations, which helps to increase engagement,” said Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg. “We’ve seen strong early traction with Tinder U, both in terms of driving higher swipe rates and higher retention,” she noted.

The Tinder U product is live in more than 1,200 colleges across the U.S.

Tinder to roll out expanded set of gender options in India

Tinder is preparing to roll out more gender options in its app in India. The company will announce shortly that users will be able to edit their profile in order to choose a different option for their gender identity, instead of just “Man” or “Woman,” as well as toggle a setting that will display their gender on their profile in Tinder’s app.

These same options have been live in the U.S. since November 2016, when the dating app added options for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The news was published earlier today to Tinder’s blog ahead of a planned announcement, a spokesperson said. It plans to share more information later tonight, they noted. (We’ll update if that’s the case).

In the post Tinder published, the company admits it hasn’t always “had the right tools” to serve its community in the past, and is now trying to learn to be a better ally to transgender and gender non-conforming people using its app. On this front, Tinder says it’s expanding its support team and educating its staff about the issues that these communities face in India. 

Additionally, the company is opening up its support channels and inviting back users who were banned after being unfairly reported by others due to their gender. Tinder users will be able to email the company with a link to their Facebook profile in order to have their request reviewed by Tinder’s team, in order to be let back in. To what extent banned users will want to return, of course, is less clear at this point.

Tinder has not fared well with the trans community in particular, as some users in the past have been banned from the app even when using the identifiers for trans people and displaying this on their profile.

For the U.S. launch of the expanded gender options, Tinder had worked with organizations like GLAAD, activists and others.

In India, it worked with users and consultants, including an LGBTQ organization working for the health and human rights of the LGBTQ community since 1994, The Humsafar Trust, as well as LGBTQ author and inclusion advocate, Parmesh Shahani.

The post also pointed users to Umang, a Mumbai-based support group run by The Humsafar Trust, which offers mental health counselling, legal support, community support and events. And it linked to the clinical and counselling unit of The Humsafar Trust.

The group also runs a helpline Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 8:30 PM at +91 9930095856, and is available on Whatsapp.

“Every new person in your life expands your horizons in some way. Inclusion and acceptance drive this expansion, and we want Tinder to reflect the world that surrounds us every day. No one will ever be banned from Tinder because of their gender,” said Tinder.

The move is notable not just because of arrival of these important and inclusive features, but because of how critical the Indian market is for dating apps. So far, it seems straight Indian men have been flocking to Tinder and other apps in large numbers, but they’ve had trouble diversifying their user base. To address this problem, Tinder and others have focused efforts on recruiting the millions of young, educated India users who have left home to go live and work in cities.

Tinder – like all major tech companies – sees India as a key market, because of the rapid smartphone adoption and the population’s size. It even launched its Bumble-inspired “My Move” feature there first, back in September.

Bumble, meanwhile, has its sights on India as well, having said it plans to be in the market in full force by year-end.

Facebook Dating arrives in Canada and Thailand

On the heels of Tinder’s plans to go more casual, Facebook is today expanding access to its own dating service, Facebook Dating. First launched two months ago in Colombia for testing purposes, the social network is today rolling out Facebook Dating to Canada and Thailand. The company is also adding a few new features to coincide with the launch, including the ability to re-review people you passed on and take a break by putting the service on pause, among other things.

If that latter feature sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also something dating app Bumble recently announced, as well.

Bumble in September launched a Snooze button for its own app, which addressed the problem many online daters have – the need for a detox from dating apps for a bit. Sometimes that’s due to frustration or just being busy; while other times it’s because they’ve matched with someone and want to give them a chance.

Facebook says you can still message people you already matched while on pause.

Meanwhile, offering daters a chance to give someone a second look is also common among dating apps, though it’s presented in different ways. For example, OKCupid may resurface people you’ve passed on, while Tinder’s newer “Feed” feature lets you keep track of updates from matches that you had earlier decided to ignore.

Second Look will be in Facebook Dating’s Settings, and show people in reverse chronological order. You can go back through your Suggested Matches and even review people you may have accidentally passed on – features other dating apps charge for.

Also new today is the ability to review a blocked list, support for non-metric units (for things like range and height), and more interactive profile content, including tappable entry points for conversations – like a shared hometown or school.

These features will arrive in the new version of Facebook Dating, rolling out today, the company says.

It has tweaked the user interface a bit, too. Now, when scrolling through Groups and Events to unlock, these will appear vertically, instead of horizontally as before.

Facebook says it’s also working now on a pre-emptive block list, based on user feedback.

This would let you search for people who are not already your Facebook friends in Facebook Dating that you know you don’t want to see – for example, an ex you’ve unfriended but not blocked on Facebook, a family member, etc., the company tells TechCrunch.

You’ll be able to search for specific people regardless of whether or not you know they have a Dating profile, and doing so won’t reveal to you if that person has a profile on Facebook Dating or not.

Pre-emptive blocking is actually fairly clever, given that many dating apps today surprise you with people you’d rather not see.

Originally announced at F8 this May, Facebook has already figured out some of the larger details about how it wants its dating service to operate. That includes its decision to limit users from expressing interest in no more than 100 people per day, and other settings to open the service to matching with strangers or with friend-of-friends.

There’s a certain (evil) genius in launching a Facebook Dating service, given that Facebook is already the place people go – along with Instagram – to research their new matches and potential dates, once things progress to that point. Plus, the service can leverage Facebook’s data. After all, if anyone knows who you are and what you’re like, it’s them. That could save users time in answering the ‘getting to know you’ questions some apps pose to their users to help perfect their matching algorithms.

It also helps that Facebook is positioning the service for those who want relationships, given the leading dating app – Tinder – is known for the opposite. Match is preparing to focus Tinder more on young, casual dating then build out Hinge for those interested in serious dating.

Facebook’s challenge is that user trust in the company today is lacking. And dating is something many considerate very private – not something they’d want exposed on a network where they’re connected with work colleagues, industry peers, and extended family. While Facebook vows to maintain user privacy, its track record on this front is poor, which could limit the service’s growth.

Facebook has not said when the service will launch in the U.S., nor has it detailed the number of signups to date.

“We don’t have any specific metrics to share, but we’ve been pleased with the response in Colombia thus far and are excited to roll it out to Thailand and Canada,” a spokesperson said.

Tinder doubles down on its casual nature, as Match invests in relationship-focused Hinge

Tinder has never really shaken its reputation among consumers as a “hook up” app, instead of one designed for more serious dating. Now, it seems Tinder is planning to embrace its status as the default app for younger users who aren’t ready to settle down. According to Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg, speaking to investors on its Q3 earnings call this morning, Tinder is preparing to launch its first-ever brand marketing campaign that will promote the “single lifestyle” with billboard campaigns and other digital initiatives.

The move is something of an admission that Tinder isn’t working for helping people find long-term relationships.

“Tinder was such a phenomenon when it launched and spread so quickly that the market defined the brand, versus the business defining the brand,” said Ginsberg, referring to its “hook up app” reputation.

“Tinder’s brand particularly resonated with 18 to 25 year-olds because it provides a fun and easy way to meet people. Tinder sometimes gets a bad rap for being casual,” she then admitted. “But keep in mind that people in the late teens and early 20s are not looking to settle down. It is a time to explore and discover yourself, meeting lots of people and being social.”

Tinder’s new marketing campaign will focus on the “single journey,” the exec said.

The dating app maker has already started publishing content that’s relevant to this “single lifestyle” on its Swipe Life website with stories relating to dating styles, travel, food, and more. For example, some of its recent articles have included things like: “7 Exit Strategies for Terrible Dates,” “Tinder Diaries: Which of these 5 Guys Will Get the Date?,” and “Study Abroad Hookup Confessions.”

Definitely not material for the relationship-minded.

Now, the company will promote Tinder’s “single lifestyle” even further with billboards across major cities throughout the U.S., as well as on digital channels.

The campaign’s goal, explained Ginsberg, is about “further reinforcing how Tinder can enable users to make the most of this fun and adventurous time in their life.”

It’s not difficult to read between the lines here: Tinder’s business model succeeds among people who want to stay single. It succeeds when they’re retained in the app, continually swiping on to the next person they want to meet.

To be fair, Tinder has never really invested in many features that push people to go on dates or exit its app. Instead, it has added addictive features like an in-app news feed – like a social network would have – and tools that enhance in-app chats, like sharing GIFs.

If Tinder was Match’s only dating app, this narrow definition of an app for those embracing their “single lifestyle” would be a problem.

But Match’s strategy has been to diversify its lineup of dating apps. Now it’s a majority owner of dating app Hinge, whose focus has been on helping people get into relationships. In other words, when people are fed up with the ephemeral nature of Tinder, they can just switch apps – while remaining a Match customer, of course!

The company also says it will invest more in Hinge going forward – a move that’s not unrelated to the decisions Match is making around Tinder. 

In fact, in another admission that Tinder wasn’t serving those in search of relationships, Ginsberg said Hinge will help the company to address the “previously underserved” audience of 20-somethings looking for a serious relationship.

She speaks of how Hinge’s user interface is clean and simple, and encourages people to be more thoughtful in their initial conversations. It’s a stark contrast to Tinder, which certainly does not.

Hinge downloads have increased five times since Match invested, the company also noted. It’s gaining traction in major cities throughout the U.S, including New York, as well as in international markets, like London.

The plan is to make Hinge the anti-Tinder, then pull in users as they exit Tinder in search of something real. The company said it’s going to increase the marketing spend on Hinge to drive awareness of the app across the U.S.

“We see a real opportunity to invest meaningful dollars in both products and marketing at Hinge to drive long-term growth,” said Ginsberg.

“We think it addresses a great gap in the market,” she continued. “If you think about when Tinder came into the market six years ago, it brought a whole new audience of young users, particularly college-age users. As they start to age…having a product that’s oriented to serious [dating] – but sort of mid-to-late 20s – is really compelling for us,” she added.

Tinder has evolved over the years from casual dating to include those who are more serious. But with Match’s decision to focus on those not looking for lasting relationships, it risks losing some users going forward. The challenge for the company is to pick them up in another dating app it owns, and not lose them to Bumble…or to an exit from dating apps altogether.

Match says Bumble is dropping its $400M lawsuit, but this battle isn’t over

Bumble and Match’s ongoing legal battles are continuing today. According to a statement released by Match Group this morning, Bumble is dropping its $400 million lawsuit against Match, which had claimed Match fraudulently obtained trade secrets during acquisition talks. However, Bumble is preparing to refile its suit at the state level, we’re hearing.

If you haven’t been following, the two companies have been doing battle in the court system for some time after Match Group failed to acquire Bumble twice — once in a deal that would have valued it at over $1 billion.

Bumble claimed Match then filed a lawsuit against it to make Bumble appear less attractive to other potential acquirers. Match’s suit claims Bumble infringed on patents around things like its use of a stack of profile cards, mutual opt-in and its swiped-based gestures — things Tinder had popularized in dating apps.

Bumble subsequently filed its own lawsuit in March 2018, this one claiming that Match used acquisition talks to fraudulently obtaining trade secrets. It says this is not a countersuit, but its own separate suit. (This is the one being discussed today by the companies.)

Match says it wasn’t served papers for Bumble’s suit. But Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe had said they delayed serving papers to give Match a chance to settle.

After a failure to settle, Bumble announced on September 24, 2018 that it would be serving Match, and shared news of its IPO plans. The $400 million suit claims Match had asked for “confidential and trade secret information” in order to make a higher acquisition offer for Bumble, but that no subsequent offer came as result.

Match says Bumble asked the courts to drop its lawsuit just a few weeks after this announcement, and believes the whole thing is just a PR stunt around Bumble’s IPO.

Match today says it’s not opposed to the lawsuit being dropped. But it is now seeking declaratory judgements that will force these issues to be litigated in the right forums, it says.

It points out that Bumble had filed its state petition in Dallas County, rather than respond with counterclaims to Match’s suit in the Western District of Texas — “less than 100 miles from Bumble’s Austin headquarters.”

It asked the case to be transferred to federal courts in the Western District, where its IP case is pending.

Now, Match says that Bumble is asking the courts to drop its claims against Tinder’s parent company.

“We’re not opposing their request to dismiss their own claims, but we’re seeking declaratory judgements that will force these issues to be litigated in the right forums,” says a Match spokesperson. “As we say in section 132 of the amended counterclaim: ‘Match will not simply wait until Bumble decides whether or not it wants to pursue these claims – likely in connection with Bumble’s next media blitz. Match intends to litigate these baseless allegations now, and Match intends to conclusively disprove them.'”

Bumble responded this morning by saying it plans to continue to defend its business against Match.

“Match’s latest litigation filings are part of its ongoing campaign to slow down Bumble’s momentum in the market. Having tried and failed to acquire Bumble, Match now seems bent on trying to impair the very business it was so desperate to buy,” a Bumble spokesperson says. “Bumble is not intimidated and will continue to defend its business and users against Match’s misguided claims.”

It declined to comment on how, but we understand that the change from a state court system to federal courts is in play here. Bumble wanted to litigate at the state level, which means it has to dismiss its claims in the federal courts. Match could then accurately say Bumble’s lawsuit is being dropped, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Bumble’s plans have changed.

We understand that Bumble is now preparing to refile its case in the state court system, but it hasn’t done so yet.

Twitter’s spam reporting tool now lets you specify type, including if it’s a fake account

Twitter is adding more nuance to its spam reporting tools, the company announced today. Instead of simply flagging a tweet as posting spam, users can now specify what kind of spam you’re seeing by way of a new menu of choices. Among these is the option to report spam you believe to be from a fake Twitter account.

Now, when you tap the “Report Tweet” option and choose “It’s suspicious or spam” from the first menu, you’re presented with a new selection of choices where you can pick what kind of spam the tweet contains.

Here, you can pick from options that specify if the tweet is posting a malicious link of some kind, if it’s from a fake account, if it’s using the Reply function to send spam or if it’s using unrelated hashtags.

These last two tricks are regularly used by spammers to increase the visibility of their tweets.

Often, high-profile Twitter users will see replies to their tweets promoting the spammers’ content. For example, check any of @elonmusk’s thread for crypto scammers’ tweets — a problem so severe, that when Elon played along one time as a joke, Twitter locked his account.

Using hashtags, meanwhile, allows spammers to get attention from those people searching Twitter’s Trends.

And of course, spammers are often posting prohibited content, like malicious links, links to phishing sites and other dangerous links.

But Twitter users will probably be most interested in the new option to report fake accounts.

There’s been a lot of name-calling on Twitter today following the emergence of reports of Russian bots and trolls flooding Twitter, in an attempt to influence U.S. politics with disinformation. Often, users in disagreements on the site will call someone “bot” as a way to shut down a conversation.

Twitter itself has been suspending real bots left and right in recent months. It deleted 200,000 Russian troll tweets earlier this year, for example, and suspended more than 70 million fake accounts in May and June, according to reports.

Now users will be able to report those accounts they believe to be bots, as well.

To what extent Twitter will rely on these user-generated reports over its own algorithmic-based bot-detection systems, or other factors (like IP addresses or suspicious behavior), is unclear.

It’s also unclear if people can ban together to mass report an account as “fake” in an attempt to remove a real person’s account. But someone will surely soon test that out.

Prior to the change, users were able to report spam but not the type of spam, Twitter’s documentation today still confirms.

Twitter tells us the updated reporting flow will simply allow the company to collect more detail so it can “identify and remove spam more effectively.”

The feature is live now on the web and in its mobile apps.

Twitter’s doubling of character count from 140 to 280 had little impact on length of tweets

Twitter’s decision to double its character count from 140 to 280 characters last year hasn’t dramatically changed the length of Twitter posts. According to new data released by the company this morning, Twitter is still a place for briefer thoughts, with only 1% of tweets hitting the 280-character limit, and only 12% of tweets longer than 140 characters.

Brevity, it seems, is baked into Twitter – even when given expanded space, people aren’t using it.

Only 5% of tweets are longer than 190 characters, indicating that Twitter users have been for so long trained to keep their tweets short, they haven’t adapted to take advantage of the extra room to write.

Meanwhile, most tweets continue to be very short, Twitter says.

The most common length of a tweet back when Twitter only allowed 140 characters was 34 characters. Now that the limit is 280 characters, the most common length of a tweet is 33 characters. Historically, only 9% of tweets hit Twitter’s 140-character limit, now it’s 1%.

That said, Twitter did see some impact from the doubling of character count in terms of how people write.

It found that abbreviations are used much less than before. Instead of writing in “text speak” like “u r,” “u8,” “b4” and others, people are now using proper words. For example, the use of abbreviations like “gr8” is down by 36%, use of “b4″ is down by 13%,” and “sry” has dropped 5%. Other words have increased as result, including “great” (+32%), “before” (+70%) and “sorry” (+31%).

Twitter also points out that the use of “please” and “thank you” have increased over the year since the character count change, by 54% and 22%, respectively. But don’t take those metrics to mean that Twitter’s community itself has a kinder, gentler tone. Sentiment expressed on the network can’t be tracked by use of polite words alone – especially when they’re a part of less than polite conversations, or used sarcastically, for example. You’d need real sentiment analysis for that.

Perhaps unrelated to character count increases, Twitter found that the number of tweets with a question mark have increased by 30%, and overall, tweets are receiving more replies.

To be clear, the data is for English use of Twitter, but the company says the findings are consistent across the seven languages analyzed.

One thing Twitter didn’t measure was the use of threading, which seems to be the more popular way today of expressing longer thoughts. Threads, which are connected series of tweets telling a longer story, seem to be more popular than ever before. They also appear to take advantage of the extra characters, in many cases. These longform tweets often even announce themselves, by tweeting “THREAD” at their start.

But Twitter didn’t analyze the use of threads, or character counts within them, so it’s unclear to what extent they’ve changed following the increase to 280. (We’ve asked if they have access to this data, and will update if they can provide it.)

As a proxy, however, tools that help Twitter users read threads have seen a boost in usage in recent months. For example, Thread Reader App in August tweeted a chart showing its website’s global ranking climbing.

 

 

Google Maps takes on Facebook Pages with new ‘Follow’ feature for tracking businesses

Google Maps has been steadily rolling out new features to make its app more than just a way to find places and navigate to them. In recent months, it’s added things like group trip planningmusic controls, commuter tools, ETA sharing, personalized recommendations, and more. Now, it’s introducing a new way for users to follow their favorite businesses, as well – like restaurants, bars, or stores, for example – in order to stay on top of their news and updates.

If that sounds a lot like Google Maps’ own version of Facebook Pages, you’re right.

Explains the company, once you tap the new “follow” to track a business, you’ll then be able to see news from those places like their upcoming events, their offers, and other updates right in the “For You” tab on Google Maps.

Events, deals and photo-filled posts designed to encourage foot traffic? That definitely sounds like a Facebook Page competitor aimed at the brick-and-mortar crowd.

Businesses can also use the Google Maps platform to start reaching potential customers before they open to the public, Google notes.

After building a Business Profile using Google My Business which includes their opening date, the business will then be surfaced in users’ searches on mobile web and in the app, up to three months before their opening.

This profile will display the opening date in orange just below the business name, and users can save the business to one of their lists, if they choose. Users can also view all the other usual business information, like address, phone, website and photos.

The new “follow” feature will be accessible to the over 150 million places already on Google Maps, as well as the millions of users who are seeking them out.

The feature has been spotted in the wild for some time before Google’s official announcement this week, and is rolling out over the next few weeks, initially on Android.

The “For You” tab is currently available in limited markets, with more countries coming soon, says Google.